Compliant and commercial: why is it so hard?
I remember when I first tried to move from public accounting into the corporate setting. When I would speak with recruiters, I would constantly hear ‘you need commercial experience’, and ‘sorry, they won’t interview you unless you have commercial experience’. Like many others, my first move, then, was to a role in Financial Control where my experience in audit held me in good stead. But the experience of trying to get a commercial role was frustrating. Why should we care? If we can manage commercial outcomes whilst being compliant, then that's a win. The issue is that this often doesn’t come naturally. Our ability to balance the needs of these two seemingly opposite concepts comes down to 3 things: our preferences, our experiences and the intelligence we receive. Preferences: we have subconscious preferences that shape our focus at work. These are often shaped by the circumstances of our upbringing, education or environment. So when we are at work, we are more naturally inclined to view things with a focus on risk, rules, procedures (a 'compliance' lens), or with a focus on distribution opportunity, growth or sales (a 'commercial' lens). Experiences: we tend to put ourselves in experiences that align with our preferences. For example, if I enjoy working with teams and problem solving, it makes sense that I would try and include myself in projects that allow me to experience those two things. My 'experience' (for example on my resume) will include these skills. Intelligence: broadly speaking, intelligence in this context refers to the preferences and experiences of others that you need to augment your own experiences and capabilities. Preference and experiences are largely within our locus of control (that is, we drive them). Unlocking intelligence from others, however, can be a limiting factor to growth and further development. Why is it so hard to gain intelligence from others? For many different reasons that are too lengthy to explore fully in a single blog, but the reasons can include time, hierarchy, relationships, politics, ego, priority. The list goes on. But at a macro level, it comes down to culture. Do you have a culture where intelligence is systematically shared up and down, and across, the organisation? Intelligence that augments the preferences, and experience - and therefore the capability - of others so as to enhance the work that they do? When we consider what is going on around us in the banking Royal Commission, one might suggest that this also reflects the challenge between compliance and commerce at an industry level. The findings from Cr Hayne in the Interim Report would indicate that compliance has lost the challenge to commerce. That there wasn’t a culture that enabled commercial conversations to be had within certain financial services organisations that gave appropriate consideration to compliance. How do we connect the concepts? If we stop thinking about them as being mutually exclusive. That it’s like we’re walking on a tightrope where if we fall one way, we’re ‘too compliant’ and if we fall the other, we’re ‘too commercial’. Because it doesn’t have to be that way. If we have a culture that connects compliance and commerce in a way where intelligence is shared through effective conversations, then the right decisions can be made. Conversations: more than just talk. It’s a culture. PS - don’t forget you can listen to this instead! Click here.
About Alena: Alena works with leaders and their teams to connect technical and leadership skills so they can deliver to deadline without killing their people. She is a mentor, trainer, facilitator and coach. Contact her today on email@example.com